Mica: NextGen Critical
to U.S. Jobs, Economic Opportunities & Aviation Industry
September 12, 2012
Committee leaders today highlighted the importance of the nation’s air
traffic control modernization efforts for U.S. jobs and the economy, and
called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to implement delayed
NextGen reforms included in this year’s FAA bill.
The Aviation Subcommittee hearing today received testimony from
government and aviation industry stakeholders on the FAA’s management of
and progress towards transforming our national air traffic control
system. This program, known as NextGen, is among the largest and most
ambitious public works projects in the nation’s history.
The FAA Modernization and Reform Act, signed into law in February,
includes provisions to increase the agency’s accountability and help
ensure the NextGen program stays on track. The law strengthens FAA
positions of leadership for the program, and requires the agency to
establish and track system performance metrics. The FAA has already
missed a deadline to report to Congress on the establishment of metrics,
and it has not taken action on the provisions relative to the program’s
leadership, including selecting a permanent Chief NextGen Officer.
The DOT Inspector General (IG) and the Government Accountability Office
(GAO) also continue to express concerns about delays and challenges with
the program. The IG and GAO both testified at today’s hearing.
“The two previous Democratic Congresses and the Administration failed to
provide the leadership necessary to complete a long-term FAA bill for
four long years,” said U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), Transportation and
Infrastructure Committee Chairman. “After these delays, the FAA reform
and reauthorization passed by this Congress is now law, funding and
policy are in place, and we have a blueprint to help ensure this
critical NextGen program moves forward and costs are kept under control.
“However, many are concerned, including some testifying here today,
about the lack of leadership and progress at the FAA in implementing
NextGen and meeting the requirements of the FAA Reform Act,” Mica said.
“We cannot afford to let the agency get in the way of success, and this
Committee will hold FAA’s feet to the fire to make sure they implement
the provisions in the law and move forward. The development of NextGen
is an international contest that will determine the world’s leader in
aviation technology. This is important for jobs, economic opportunity,
and the future of the industry in the United States.”
“The successful implementation of NextGen is critical to the future of
our air transportation system and U.S. competitiveness in the global
marketplace,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), Aviation Subcommittee
“NextGen will transform air transportation by transitioning to a
satellite-based surveillance system, improving communications between
pilots and controllers, and developing more efficient navigation routes
from start to finish. The goal is to create a system that is safer, less
impacted by weather conditions, better for the environment, and more
consistent with fewer delays. The FAA has made some progress, but it
also faces significant challenges.
FAA is currently spending roughly $1 billion each year to develop and
implement NextGen. The aviation industry will have to invest billions of
dollars to equip their aircraft with the avionics from which the
benefits of NextGen will be derived. Unfortunately, the FAA’s progress
is slower than expected and, as a result, the industry has been
reluctant to invest.
“It is very clear that everyone, including industry, FAA, and Congress,
wants NextGen to succeed. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act enacted
earlier this year devoted an entire title to NextGen. Among the many
reforms included in the law is the creation of new leadership positions
within the FAA that are responsible and accountable for NextGen
implementation, requirements for the FAA to define performance metrics
to measure progress, and to establish operational or financial
incentives for avionics equipage.
“Like other major infrastructure programs, NextGen is expensive and
hard. This is further complicated by the tight federal budget. But,
according to the DOT Inspector General, funding has not been a problem.
And certainly Congressional support for NextGen remains strong. At the
end of the day, the FAA must overcome the challenges and get the job